Posted by: Bob McMichael | July 11, 2011

Craft Beer Utopia

Isola di Utopia Moro

The first Utopia

Utopias have, historically, disproved themselves. At best they last only a short while before self-destructing. Yet the idea remains an attractive one, and – despite every conceivable odd being against success – people keep trying. Sometimes, though, utopias – ephemeral as they are doomed to be – occur unintentionally. Craft beer has that power.

Brewer's Dinner: Odell Brewing Company

The Menu

Boise’s Front Door has made a habit of putting on “Brewers Dinners” which highlight a particular craft brewery’s products by pairing ales and lagers with bespoke dishes conceived and prepared by the crack foodies there. On July 7th, 2011, Leslie and I attended our first, featuring Odell Brewing Company from Fort Collins, Colorado.

The intimate Front Door

The intimate Front Door

The Front Door is our favorite joint in town for a lot of reasons, the good food and tremendous selection of craft brews topping the list. The relaxed atmosphere and great service are gravy and groovy, too. When we walked in and saw the unusually tony red tablecloths and white napkins we knew something was up.

Rachel and Cera greeted us with the cheerful recognition we have earned (being die-hard, gluttonous patrons), and seated us at a five-top near the bar. Ian (pronounced EYE-un), a young engineer with a well-trimmed goatee was already seated, awaiting his companion Katie, a second-grade teacher. When she arrived we learned it was their second date. When Chris, another engineer wearing a bright yellow t-shirt ironically championing one of America’s creepiest serial killers, sat down, our temporary utopia was ready to go. Just add good beer.

Joe Mohrfeld, Head Brewer, Odell Brewing Company

Joe Mohrfeld, Odell's Head Brewer, and lovely Rachel

That we did: our “warm-up” was a pint of Double Pilsner (8.1% ABV) that, partly because it was so delicious and partly because I’d barely eaten anything all day, made me feel really, really good. It seemed to have the same effect on the rest of our group. Before long, we were all acting very well. This was the utopic foundation.

The first layer of bricks added to that foundation was a heavenly prosciutto pinwheel – some filo dough-like puffed pastry marvel filled with smoked gouda, prosciutto, and raspberry jam – paired with Odell’s 90 Shilling, their best-selling brew. I love multi-course meals that start with something sweet, but the savoriness of the smoky cheese and salty prosciutto chased down by the 90 Shilling really got all the taste bud clusters involved, heightening the other senses (whatever few I had left).

When they brought the next course, a sprightly Dijon salad with fennel, orange, pickled red onions and dried cranberries, it was complimented by the St. Lupulin Extra Pale ale (which was my favorite of the evening). That’s when one of the Odell folks came by to chat (I’m sort of but not really ashamed that I can’t remember his name; his beer by then had begun turning my memory into a very fickle thing). I asked him about St. Lupulin’s religious history and he shared the inside story with us, which was very generous of him considering the fact that this knowledge is very strictly regulated by numerous cannabinoid theocracies around the globe. As if by some divine happening, within minutes after his departure our table was bestowed with Odell baseball caps. To make things even better, I began realizing that our glasses were being magically refilled. This happened with each of the brews throughout the evening. Holy hoppiness!

Ian and Katy

Ian and Katie



Without going into a detailed account of each of the next courses I will say that all of the food (just look at the menu) exceeded the deliciousness, freshness, superb preparation, and gustatory delight expected of and always delivered by the Front Door. What made the evening special, or even more special, was the fact that we sat down with strangers and were able to communicate and share like humans in a world that – more and more each day – discourages such communion. Surely the alcohol helped lower inhibitions, and the food stimulated our hypothalami to make us hyper-social. But we – all five of us – took it from there. Ian shared his experiences traveling to China and Singapore. Katie told us about her passion for teaching and how she’s survived a decade in public education in a state that seems hell-bent against it. Chris talked about learning the sitar and considered exchanging lessons with me for bagpipe instruction. Leslie regaled us with tales of things removed from patients’ nether regions (once again dusting off the old but effective snow-globe story). And I, as usual, blabbed way too much (it had to be the beer talking!). We laughed, we cried, we ate, we drank, we all – it was obvious – felt something very positively unusual.

Maybe we need to get out more, all of us. We need to fight against the social compartmentalization encouraged and promoted by “Smart Phones” (crappy pictures herein courtesy of my Blackberry) that make us socially dumber and rude to one another, especially strangers. There are tons of opportunities to get to know strangers and regain hope for civilization, but facebook (ironically) and technology (I’m conflictedly hyperaware of the paradox that the medium I’m using for this message is my named villain) are clearly not the answer. Seeing people in person and listening to what they have to say can be scary. But we must do this to be human. It seems sad and ridiculous to write this, but also necessary because it is too easy to forget or avoid it. The Brewers Dinners at the Front Door are just one (amazing) venue for being a human being. Thanks!

P.S. It seems that the craft brewing “movement” has fostered a lot of this type of thinking: see, for example, Brewvana (get it?)…



  1. […] I met Bob for the first time on a blind date more than a decade ago it was over a nice pint of craft beer. I can’t remember what beer I drank but what I do know is that the evening went well because now […]

  2. […] I met Bob for the first time on a blind date more than a decade ago it was over a nice pint of craft beer. I can’t remember what beer I drank but what I do know is that the evening went well because now […]

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